After 3 days on the train it was so nice to disembark in Vladimir and take a private bus to Suzdal. Nothing has felt better than a hot shower on arrival at the hotel after that length of time on a train.
As we arrived mid afternoon we walked through the market square, trying to negotiate with the locals, with not alot of success to be honest, before heading to a mead (honey wine) tasting place for samples of the local brews. Having tried mead, in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, previously I knew what was coming and in most cases the mead tasted very nice indeed. Others were not so impressed but we all have our own individual tastes and preferences.
Before heading off to dinner with our host for the night (Lena) some of us just wandered around the township letting our cameras lead the way. Definitely a worthwhile activity as I managed to get some good shots.
Dinner was held at Lena’s house and to say the food was awesome is a complete understatement. Have to rate it as the best meal I have had on tour to date. Lena was also quite generous with her rations of vodka throughout the meal. Wasnt exactly what I really needed after the train experience but you have to fight through it!
Once dinner was completed, Lena put on some Russian music and the dancing began. Lena even managed to drag me onto the dancefloor, definitely wasn’t my choice, but once that happened I quickly ran and placed myself on the lounge, nursing her cat until night was called.
Next day we undertook a walking tour of the city, through its Kremlin, cathedrals and what we called timbertown. Suzdal is basically an open air museum with heaps of ‘Onion Top’ churches scattered throughout. After lunch we took the coach back to Vladimir to catch the public bus from there to Moscow.
That journey took about 3 hours and found myself next a Russian guy who generated so much body heat, I found myself sweating on one side and really uncomfortable. Had some dodgy movie on for the second half of the trip but only in Russian so we just made up our own plot. Seemed more fun that way!
Arriving in Moscow about 7:30pm we had some issues getting taxis to our accomodation then issues with the beds available. Good thing Scott was around to sort this stuff out for us. Accomodation was pretty basic but adequate nonetheless.
Well, I can say that Moscow was a city I was fearing in visiting. Seemed to have these preconceived ideas of it being dangerous and unfriendly. I could not have been more wrong.
First visit was to Red Square which covered St Basils Cathedral, Lenin’s Musoleum and the GUM Shopping facility. Seeing St Basils Cathedral was just amazing. Its seriously like walking into a fairytale. You see it on TV at NYE celebrations but there is nothing like seeing it for yourself. The colourful onion tops, the beautiful architecture, etc. Cant say enough about it.
After wandering around Red Square we then lined up to walk past Lenin’s embalmed body in the mausoleum. Have to be honest but either the guy who embalmed his body is an unbelievable talent or the body is plastic or a replica from Madame Tassauds. If you visit, check out the hands, hence why I cannot be sure if it is a real body or not. It was quite odd to walk around the body and pay tributes to other Russian Presidents surrounding his tomb but when in Russia, one does as the Russians do!
From there we did a walking tour through the Kremlin and tried to gain an understanding of the history and also observing the cathedrals within the area. They did have the biggest cannon they built but never fired. There are cannon balls at the base of it but one can see they wouldn’t fit (shhh, don’t tell anyone) and then the biggest bell weighing 200 tons but this was never rung. When they tried to lift it they dropped it and a big piece came out. I guess its all well and good to build big things but its kind of pointless if you cant do anything with them.
After that we wandered around the Armoury Museum which is home to the famous Faberge Eggs and I have to admit they were a lot smaller than I anticipated. So small infact that I missed them the first time around! They were impressive but my favourite part was the carriages and the knights costumes. Definitely worth the visit, that’s for sure.
The GUM department store was for the rich and famous and the extravagance was insane, that went along with the prices, but surprisingly the food court was pretty normal when it came to prices. Food was great with no complaints. Really starting to love Russian food now, probably a bit too much but oh well.
That night we undertook a bus tour of the night lights including Red Square, St Basils Cathedral, GUM department store, a monastery somewhere, the major university, 1980 Olympic Stadium and the lights from the Kremlin. Tour was fantastic and not sure on how the photos will turn out but fingers crossed!
From there we did a tour of the metro stations and I was a bit sceptical at first but once you see the mosaics, leadlights, sculptures and general artistic stuff above your head you really appreciate how impressive it is. I was completely blown away even though I was ridiculously tired.
For the rest of my time in Moscow I just wandered aimlessly taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this wonderful city. What I was noticing was how tall the women were. They really love their high heels no matter the condition of the footpaths, roads or how cold the weather is. I also realised the severe lack of public toilets here. I guess when people are queuing in McDonalds just to use the toilets, it gives you an idea as to how much of a shortage of public facilities there are.
That night we caught the overnight train to St Petersberg. Yes, the last train trip on this journey!! By comparison to the others this one was a breeze. Just a lazy 8 hours. Enough time to get some sleep then be awaken when we are near St Petersberg. Didn’t sleep all that well to be honest. Got to be something about those concrete mattresses and pillows where I just couldn’t get comfortable.